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Why the nativity?
By DAVID JEREMIAH
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.
Copyright © 2006
David P. Jeremiah
All right reserved.
Time is a mystery. We live each day immersed in it, so
we cannot imagine a life outside of it, looking in. Time
marches by us, moment by moment and year by year. It
leaves its mark upon us more than we leave our mark
Imagine standing several miles from a great mountain
range. You admire the majestic chain from its foothills in
the west to the last outcroppings in the east. But if you
didn't have that separation-if you were standing on one of
the mountains-you would see only the scenery that was
right around you.
God watches over us from outside the straight mountain
range that is time. He sees past, present, and future in
one unbroken line. And as long as we are travelers through
this life, climbing from one slope to the next, we lack his
perspective-with one exception, that is: the men and
women known as the prophets.
God gives many amazing gifts. To some he gives a surplus
of wisdom, to others a specially loving heart. And
some have received from him the sight to perceive certain
shapes in the mist of the future. Those with this gift have
always been people obedient to God and to his purposes.
Why would he let them see what was to come? Because he
loves us, and he wants us to know what lies ahead, whether
for our encouragement or as a sober warning. A prophet's
central mission, as a matter of fact, is not to predict but to
preach. He speaks more of the present than the future.
Even so, the Old Testament prophets spoke frequently
about a coming champion. Every page, from Genesis to
Malachi, seems to tremble with the wondrous anticipation
of his coming. The books were written by many different
writers, at various times over many centuries. What bound
the readers and writers together was their identity as a special
people that God truly cherished. Through that particular
nation, a small one called Israel, God's plan was to let
the whole world know of his love.
But that nation encountered times of grief and despair.
Because the Israelites occupied one of the most contested
areas in all the world, they were frequently under attack by
tribes and empires-by the Philistines, then the Babylonians,
and finally the Romans. Their walls and homes and
Temple were built, destroyed by enemies, and rebuilt.
Finally, Israel became a dying nation, filled with confusion
and doubt. It was against that scene that the great age
of the prophets came. Many of the Jewish people had been
carried away into slavery. Some had lost their sense of national
identity in exile. Many were cynical, faithless, embittered.
Everyone yearned for the great days of the
kings-David and Solomon and all their glory. And it was
here that the prophets-men such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and
Micah-urged the people to keep the faith. Their message
was, Wait for one more king. This one will be the greatest of all,
and he will end our struggle forever.
Just when people most needed hope, God sent spokesmen
to offer a foretaste of a better future. Throughout the
words and work of the prophets, there were glimmers of a
savior-a king who would rescue his people and restore
them to God. In fact, there were more than three hundred
specific prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures about the
promised "Messiah," as they called
The hints were tantalizing. Isaiah
said that this special deliverer would
be born of a virgin (see Isaiah 7:14).
What kind of man could he be?
Micah, too, offered a prediction
that was specific and startling. He
said that the king would be born
in the town of Bethlehem. That
prophecy reads, "You, O Bethlehem
Ephrathah, are only a small village
among all the people of Judah. Yet a
ruler of Israel will come from you,
one whose origins are from the distant
past" (Micah 5:2). Again, it was clear that the Messiah
would be one who was not confined by the bounds of
time. He would come "from the distant past."
There are references to a ministry of teaching, healing,
and miracles. This would be a man who would enjoy public
favor, then finally be "despised and rejected-a man of sorrows,
acquainted with deepest grief" (Isaiah 53:3). There
are surprising references to crucifixion by a writer who had
never witnessed such a thing (see Psalm 22).
Isaiah would conclude, "He was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be
whole. He was whipped so we could be healed" (Isaiah
53:5). The people of Israel could hope for a better time, including
forgiveness by the God they had abandoned. The
coming king would prove that God had never abandoned
Most amazing of all was the coming Messiah's mission.
God said, "You will do more than restore the people
of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and
you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth" (Isaiah
Can you see the picture that emerges? It was as if many
different artists had drawn strange squiggles on paper separately-only
to find that when their fragments of art were
combined on a single canvas, there was a beautiful portrait
of a king we would come to know as Jesus Christ.
Nearly all of the more than three hundred prophecies
have already come true (a few remain for our future). Jesus
was all that had been foretold, and so much more. One
mathematician determined that the odds of one person's
fulfilling even sixty specific prophecies are 1 in 1 plus 157
Why the prophecies? They show us that even as Jesus
was fully a human being like us, he was also "one whose origins
are from the distant past." By reading the prophecies
we see the entire mountain range in a breathtaking glance;
we behold a magnificent God who works his purposes out
through the march of time, patiently but faithfully, down
to the smallest detail. We know that this is a God who can
be trusted, and this is a Messiah who fulfills every hope in
* Does knowing that Jesus' birth fulfilled prophecies
made hundreds of years beforehand affect your life?
In what ways?
* Which of the six specific prophecies mentioned in
this chapter seems the most amazing to you? Why?
For further study: Read the following pairs of Scriptures to
discover more prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus' first
advent: Isaiah 9:7 and Luke 1:32-33; Isaiah 53:12 and
Matthew 27:38; Zechariah 6:13 and Hebrews 7:24-25.
Excerpted from Why the nativity?
by DAVID JEREMIAH
Copyright © 2006 by David P. Jeremiah.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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